The Federal High Court Port, Harcourt has served contempt of court charges to key players in the Delta and Ebonyi State Executive Councils for refusal to pay judgment creditors/applicants a total sum of N54.30 billion and USD139.55 million.
Rather than pay up the debts owed the firms of Andrew Bishopton Nigeria Limited and its partner, Mauritz Walton Nigeria Limited based on judgements delivered by Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and subsequent garnishee proceedings dated July 18, 2022, Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Dave Umahi, his Ebonyi State counterpart, aided by their bankers, Zenith, UBA and the CBN, as well as the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation have continually disobeyed the court order.
These debts comprise of N3,942,061,493.09, N20,100,000,000.00 and USD109,696,543.00 (owed Mauritz Walton), as well as N118,787,380.00, N30,100,000,000.00 and USD29,854,856.9 owed both Andrew Bishopton and Mauritz Walton firms for consultancy services offered.
It would be recalled that earlier in August, Ebonyi state Governor, Dave Umahi was reported to have ordered the arrest of one of the consultants, Jackie Ikeotuonyi, while his business partner, Dr. Maurice Ibe made a formal report to the Inspector General of Police about threats to his life by the Governor.
Among those to feel the wrath of the law are the United Bank for Africa (UBA), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Zenith Bank.
Others are: the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), Delta State Government, Ebonyi State Government and the Attorney-General of Ebonyi State.
According to the Form 48 Order obtained exclusively by ABUJA OUTLOOK, titled: NOTICE OF CONSEQUENCE of DISOBEDIENCE OF COURT ORDER BROUGHT PURSUANT TO SECTION 72 SHERIFFS AND CIVIL PROCESS ACT & ORDER IX RULES 13(1) & (2) JUDGMENT ENFORCEMENT RULES, UBA, Zenith Bank and other key players pursuant with were ordered to immediately pay the Judgment Creditors- Andrew Bishopton and Mauritz Walton or “be guiIty of contempt of Court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
“Take Notice: That unless you obey the direction(s) contained in the Judgment Order Absolute of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, delivered by Honourable Stephen Dalyop Pam on 2nd November, 2022 in SUIT NO: FHC/PH/CS/35/2022 between Andrew Bishopton Limited & mar v The Government of Ebonyi State & Ors, you will be guiIty of contempt of Court and will be liable †o be committed to prison.
“It is therein ordered that: An Order Absolute of †his Honourable Cour† is hereby made directing the 2nd Garnishee Bank (UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA Plc) to within 24 hours, pay the sum of One Hundred and Eighteen Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand, Three Hundred and Eighty Naira (N118,787.380.00) attached from the account maintained by the Judgment Debtor (Government of Ebonyi S†a†e) known as “Ebonyi Sta†e Government Treasury Single Accoun†” with Account NO. 100J158077 with the 2nd Garnishee (United Bank For Africa Plc) into †he designated Account of the judgemen† Creditor: Mauri†z Wal†on Nigeria Limited, Bank Name: WEMA BANK PLC. Account NO. 0122765584 to liquidate the judgment sum in this suit,” the Court ordered.
The Court also ordered the Central Bank to deduct from source the sum of US$29,858,856.9 (Twenty-Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand, Eight Hundred end & Fifty-Six US Dollars, Nine Cents) only and the sum of N3O,100,000,000.00 (Thirty Billion, One Hundred Million Nairo) only respectively from †he monthly Federation Allocation Accounts of the Judgement Debtor Ebonyi State Government.
“An Order Absolute of this Honourable Court is hereby made directing the 1st Garnishee Bank (Central Bank of Nigeria) to deduct at source, †he sum of US$29,858,856.9 (Twenty-Nine Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four Thousand, Eight Hundred end & Fifty-Six US Dollars, Nine Cen†s) only and †he sum of N3O,100,000,000.00(Thirty Billion, One Hundred Million Nairo) only respectively from †he monthly Federation Allocation Accounts of †he Judgement Debtor Ebonyi State Governmen† and credit same into the designated Account of †he 2nd Judgment Creditor, Mauritz Walton Nigeria Limited, with Account Name: MAURITZ WALTON NIG LIMITED, Bank Name: WEMA BANK PLC, Account NO. 0122765584 to liquidate the judgment sum in this suit.
“TAKE NOTE THAT you will be served wi†h FORM 49 which is Notice to show cause why committal proceedings should not be commenced against you if within 48 hours on receipt of this FORM 48 the Order of the Cour† made on 2nd day of November, 2022 is no† complied with.”
The Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court had ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to commence the deduction of over a billion from the Federation Allocation Account, for the Ebonyi State Government and remittance of same to a consulting firm.
In its earlier Order Absolute, the Court had equally ruled that the Ebonyi State Government should pay the firm, Andrew Bishopton Nig Limited and its partners, Mauritz Walton Nig Limited, the sum of N118,787,380.00) and other sums for failing to keep to the terms of the contract agreement, it entered with the latter.
The court also ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to withdraw the sum of US29,854,856.9 and another N30,100,000,000.00 from the state’s accounts and remittance of same to the company.
How It All Began
Ebonyi State Government contracted ANDREW BISHOPTON NIG LIMITED in 2016 to pursue and recover monies illegally deducted on both its foreign and local loans and facilities, especially the Paris Club Refund.
The firm, it was gathered, approached the Court following the state government’s alleged reluctance to keep to the agreed contract terms, a development that led to the illegal arrest and detention of senior staff of the consultancy organisation, Mrs Jackie Ikeotuonye, by the former.
The Court, presided over by Justice S. Dalyop Pam, in its Order Absolute, ruled that one of the Applicants or Judgment Creditors, ANDREW BISHOPTON NIG LIMITED, was treated unfairly by the Government.
Recall also that in September 2022, Justice Stephen Daylop Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt had ordered the freezing of the accounts of the Ebonyi State Government and its monthly allocations.
The suit is marked No. FHC/PH/CS/35/2022.
The monies the court ordered frozen include $29,854,856.9, N30,100,000,000, and another N15 million.
A certified true copy of the Order Nissi which was signed by the Registrar, O.P. Clovis Okereke on July 21, 2022, validates the authenticity of the process.
The plaintiffs in the matter also indicated as judgment creditors, Andrew Bishopton Ltd and Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd had filed the Garnishee process before the court against the Ebonyi State Government as the judgment debtor, the Attorney General, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the first Garnishee party and the United Bank as the second Garnishee.
The process is actually the enforcement of an existing judgment of a court in favour of the two companies, the reason the parties suing are indicated as judgment creditors, and the Ebonyi government as a judgment debtor.
The garnishee parties are the custodians of the monies ordered frozen or attached and include $29,854,856.9 domiciled with the CBN, another N30,100,000,000 and yet another N15 million from also the UBA through which the government receives its monthly allocations.
The application for the order was filed as ex parte process.
The judge of the court granted the judgment creditors their requests for the attachment or freezing of the listed accounts with the two banks and also ordered the banks to file required documents as proof that the banks have sufficient fund to offset the debts against Ebonyi State.
The court granted the five orders sought by the two companies freezing the monies in the Ebonyi account and transferring them to the account of the two companies domiciled with the Wema Bank, account number 0122765584 from that of the state government UBA account number 1001158077 as a means of liquidating an existing judgment sum owed the applicants by the state.
The court also granted the CBN and UBA 14 days window to file any papers before it, if there is any need, on why the order would not be executed immediately since there were not in court during the hearing of the application filed by the two companies.